Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano offered his two cents regarding what the Colts should do to address their quarterback situation on January 11.
In a conversation with former NFL head coach Eric Mangini and current CBS analyst Charles Davis on The 33rd Team, Pagano said the Colts drafting a rookie quarterback in the first round of the 2023 draft is a “no-brainer.”
“You’ve got to go get you a quarterback,” Pagano said. “You’ve got to stop this veteran quarterback carousel of these one-and-dones.”
Pagano previously served as the Colts’ head coach from 2012-2017, amassing a 53-43 record. His first year in Indianapolis was also quarterback Andrew Luck’s rookie season with the Colts. From 2016-2016 (Luck missed 2017 with a shoulder injury), Luck earned three Pro Bowl berths and threw 132 touchdown passes.
Luck suddenly retired in 2019 at the age of 29, and the Colts have had little stability behind center ever since.
“They had success with bringing Philip Rivers in there (in 2020) but then he retires after a year,” Pagano said. “Then the Carson Wentz experiment, and then Matt Ryan and Jacoby Brissett. I could go on and on.”
With the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft, the Colts are in a position to select or even trade up for the quarterback of their choice.
The Colts’ Options
Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis could be picked early in the first round, depending on specific team needs and evaluations. But as ESPN’s Todd McShay suggests, Young has a good chance of being selected No. 1 overall.
One factor that the Colts must consider, however, is that other teams could also be vying for Young (or another top prospect) via trade. Pagano said he expects several teams to attempt to acquire the first overall pick, which is currently owned by the Chicago Bears.
“I think Chicago is going to go defense, probably, they’ve got their quarterback (in Justin Fields),” Pagano said. “They’re going to get a lot of calls.”
Indianapolis could ultimately stand pat and hold on to its No. 4 pick. Regardless of what happens, Pagano said it’s imperative that the Colts pick their quarterback of the future.
“It’s just going to be a part of their evaluation process, but they’ve got to get themselves a franchise quarterback and then go from there,” Pagano said.
Is the Veteran QB Experiment Over?
With four straight years of veteran quarterbacks and only one playoff appearance to show, the Colts could be headed in a new direction this offseason.
One issue, however, is that Ryan, who started the 2022 season, remains under contract. Pagano doesn’t think the team will hold on to the 37-year-old.
“They’re going to have some cap issues with Matt Ryan if they keep him around, which I don’t see happening — it’s going to be $35 million,” Pagano said. “And if they move on from him before March (15), when the league year starts, it’s going to count I think $18 million dead money against the cap.”
Colts Wire reported that Indianapolis will have over $29 million in cap space based on a $225 million league salary cap. If the Colts were to cut Ryan, the $18 million in dead money would be a significant hit. It might be more financially viable to draft a starting quarterback to play on a rookie contract under those circumstances.
Further speculation arose when Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was benched after Week 16. The Colts inquired about Carr’s trade status in February 2021 but were told he wasn’t available, resulting in the Colts trading for Wentz instead. Carr bid farewell to the Raiders via a Twitter post on January 12, but The Athletic’s Zak Keefer tweeted that the Colts trading for him isn’t a possibility.
The Colts haven’t used a Day 1 or 2 draft pick on a quarterback since Andrew Luck in 2012, but that could change this offseason.